Green beans cooked to perfection, somewhere between hard and soft, are delicious tossed with a sauce made with Asian-style ingredients.
Oyster-flavored sauce, that bottled oh-so-tangy condiment, adds umami to the mix. Mirin, rice vinegar and sugar balance out the flavors with sweetness. Toasted sesame seeds add a gentle crunch and welcome nuttiness.
In Chinese restaurants, a version of this dish often features Chinese long beans. They have a distinctive vegetal bean taste and are often steamed or stir-fried. Green beans are a little sweeter and easier to find in the marketplace.
Asian-Style Green Beans
Yield: 4 servings
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce
2 tablespoons mirin, see cook’s notes
1 1/2 teaspoons Asian roasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar (not seasoned rice vinegar)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
3/4-pound green beans, trimmed, if long cut in half crosswise
Cook’s notes: Mirin is a type of rice wine and a common ingredient in Japanese cooking. It is something like sake but with a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content.
1. Place a plate next to the stove. Place sesame seeds in a small skillet on medium heat. Shake handle of skillet to redistribute seeds as they lightly brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Keep an eye on them because they burn easily. Transfer seeds to plate.
2. Add oyster sauce, mirin, sesame oil, rice vinegar and sugar to small saucepan. Using medium heat stir until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Taste sauce. If you want to add spicy heat, stir in Sriracha to taste.
3. Bring a large deep saucepan of water to a boil on high heat. Add about a teaspoon of salt. Add green beans and boil until beans are tender-crisp (on my stove, I set a timer to seven minutes, that gives a minute or two for the water to come back to a boil, then about five minutes for the beans to blanch in boiling water). Drain. Shake colander to remove excess water.
4. Place beans in bowl. Stir sauce and pour over beans. Toss and add most of toasted sesame seeds, reserving some to sprinkle over beans as a garnish. Toss and taste; sprinkle on a little salt if needed. Sprinkle on remaining sesame seeds and serve.